Monday, October 3, 2011

Going Back to School… Wine Tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Summer is over and Autumn is upon us which means two things… the harvest of this year’s vintage is underway in many vineyards and the kids are going back to school. To celebrate these two events, where better to go wine tasting than to the Santa Cruz Mountains!

One of the wonderful things about going to wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains is the joy of driving along the causal winding roads with the windows down. You can feel the cool Autumn breeze and smell the fresh sent of pine as you drive through the woods and then when you arrive, the near-ready to harvest grapes are already exuding their perfume into the air.

I had recently visited many other wineries in the area so on this trip I decided to just focus on one that caught my eye during my recent visit to Regale and Loma Prieta Winery.

Burrell School Vineyards and Winery

Burrell School Vineyards and Winery’s origins date back to 1854 when Lyman J. Burrell settled the rough wilderness on the north side of the Santa Cruz Mountains that is now home to this winery and Estate vines.

Winemaker David Moulton and his wife Anne began development of the Estate vineyard in 1973. At an elevation of 1,600 feet, the site faces to the southwest with soils are a mixture of loam and shale that are derived from its close proximity to the San Andreas Fault.

Nearby Monterey Bay brings warm days and cool nights that result in a unique microclimate that is perfect for long, slow ripening of cool climate grapes. The land was initially planted with Chardonnay and Merlot, and in 202 Pinot Noir was added to the vineyard that also produces Estate Cabernet Franc, Syrah and the exclusive Valedictorian blend from the nearby Pichon Vineyard. All of these fine varietals are harvested by hand and select grapes from other small Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards are also used to produce Burrell School’s wines.

The Tasting Room is located on the site of the original Teacher's Carriage House and the outside veranda overlooks the Estate vines with spectacular views of the canyons and ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

My first pour was the 2007 “Teacher’s Pet” Chardonnay. As is common in many tasting rooms, the wine was a bit too cold and so the nose seemed somewhat muted. But as I warmed the glass in my hands I was able to pick up dried peaaches, apple pie, and almonds. The wine is crisp and finishes clean. This is not your typical California oaky buttery Chard and it sells for $30 a bottle. Since we’re in a school, I’d give it a “B+.”

The second wine was the 2006 “Principal’s Choice” Estate Pinot Nor. This wine is dark ruby red and on the nose I picked up fruit forward Bing cherries, red currant, root beer, a little spice and some earthy notes. On the palate it has a full mouth feel that is rich with silky tannins. A really nice wine for $44 a bottle so I brought one home. I’d give this wine an “A-.”

My third tasting was the 2007 “Detention” Ryan Oaks Vineyard Zinfandel from Amador County. On the nose it has a big bouquet of sweet plums, raspberry jam, waxy vanilla candle and a little sweet oak. This is a jammy wine but not overly so and for a wine with 15.7% alcohol it is really well balanced as it has absolute NO heat on the finish or return. It sells for $30 a bottle. I’d give it a “B+.”

The forth wine was the 2007 “Spring Break” Estate Pichon Vineyard Syrah. A somewhat simple wine with boysenberry notes and firm but supple tannins. For $30 a bottle I’d give it a “C”.

My fifth wine was the 2008 “Old School” Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine exudes intense and concentrated black currant and cassis, followed by chocolate covered cherries and raisins. It has soft tannins, a full mouth feel but somewhat lacking in acidity. If it was under $20 I would rate it higher, but at $30 a bottle I have to give it a “B.”

My sixth tasting for the day was the 2005 “Dean’s List” Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a step up from the previous wine as it displays a more complex concentrated array of dark fruits, black currants, bright cherries, eucalyptus, and mint. This wine sells for $44 a bottle. I’d give a “B+.”

My final wine for the day was the “High School Sweetheart” Zinfandel/Syrah blend (50/50%). A jammy wine that displays boysenberries, blackberries, pepper and some vanilla. This is a “club only” wine that sells for $30 a bottle. I’d give a “B.”

For more information or to visit:

Burrell School Vineyards and Winery
24060 Summit Road
Los Gatos, CA 95033
Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Phone: 1-408-353-6290